There is much more to pumpkins than Halloween decorations and pie fillings. The orange gourds are extremely nutrient-dense, while also low in calories. Pumpkin seeds, too, offer immense health benefits.
Pumpkins contain vitamins A, B-complex, C and E, potassium, magnesium, calcium, manganese, iron, zinc, phosphorus, copper, folate, carotenoids and other antioxidants. They are particularly favored for their high beta-carotene content, a precursor to vitamin A.
Although beta-carotene is also available in supplement form, it is best to get it through foods in your diet because the supplement is associated with increased cancer risk.
You can easily include pumpkin in your diet by adding pumpkin puree to soups, stews, pasta sauce and hummus. Plus, you can add it to your bowl of oatmeal, yogurt, smoothies and baked goods. It can also be used as a substitute for butter and oil.
Here are the top 10 health benefits of pumpkins.
1. Improves Eye Health
One cup of cooked canned pumpkin provides more than 100 percent of your daily requirement for vitamin A. Vitamin A aids vision, especially in dim light, and helps protect the surface of the eyes (corneas). It is useful for maintaining healthy skin, tissues and mucus membranes.
Plus, pumpkins are packed with carotenoids like beta-carotene and alpha-carotene that reduce the risk of age-related macular degeneration and prevent cataracts. The powerful antioxidants in pumpkins protect the cells in the retina from free radical damage by neutralizing the free radicals.
2. Boosts Immunity
Pumpkins are a storehouse of nutrients like vitamins A, C and E, carotenoids, iron, magnesium and others. Vitamin A helps with cellular communication, which is essential for the tissues that protect against pathogens. Beta-carotene also has immune-stimulating properties.
Vitamin C, too, works as an immune-booster as it fights infection. Plus, the various minerals ensure proper immune function. Pumpkin seeds, high in zinc, are also good for the immune system. Zinc protects the body from oxidative damage.
3. Aids Digestion
Being high in fiber, pumpkins are good for digestion. Fiber helps your body digest your food efficiently and absorb the nutrients. It helps move food through the digestive tract, prevents constipation, absorbs water and adds bulk to the stool, thus controlling diarrhea. Do not eat unripe or overripe pumpkins though.
In addition, raw pumpkin juice heals stomach acidity. You can simply drink a cup of pumpkin juice mixed with a little honey 3 times a day for relief. Preferably, take it about 30 minutes before meals. It can also help remove intestinal worms and works as a mild sedative.
4. Supports Weight Loss
Pumpkins are low in calories and high in fiber. Fiber is known to keep you feeling full longer, thus controlling your appetite. Its high potassium content helps flush out excess salt and water, thus reducing water weight.
Plus, pumpkins have a high glycemic index (GI 75) but low glycemic load (GL 3). A low glycemic load diet is believed to be more satiating than a high glycemic load diet. Low glycemic load restores your energy balance through increased satiety and reduced food consumption.
5. Promotes Younger-Looking Skin
The high vitamin A in pumpkins provides anti-aging benefits and promotes healthy and younger-looking skin. In addition, the beta-carotene present in pumpkins can help reduce skin damage caused by the sun.
The vitamin C and E content in the orange gourds also improve skin health. They encourage collagen production and promote a glowing complexion.
Vitamin B5, or pantothenic acid, in this superfood helps reduce signs of aging like skin spots. In addition to eating pumpkins, you can also apply pumpkin juice or pulp on your skin.
6. Reduces Inflammation
The carotenoids responsible for giving pumpkins their bright orange color also provide anti-inflammatory benefits. They help reduce inflammation that can lead to a number of chronic health conditions, such as cancer, heart disease, Type 2 diabetes and arthritis.
The beta-carotene also helps prevent the buildup of cholesterol in arterial walls. Alpha-carotene slows the process of aging and prevents the growth of tumors. The antioxidant vitamin E protects against certain cancers and reduces the risk of Alzheimer’s, too.
Just 1/2 cup of pumpkin provides more than 100 percent of your recommended dietary allowance (RDA) of beta- and alpha-carotene.
7. Prenatal Power Food
Pumpkins and roasted pumpkin seeds are good for pregnant women because of their numerous nutrients for prenatal development. Plus, they provide digestive benefits and can also relieve abdominal cramps during pregnancy.
Pumpkins contain iron that prevents anemia, carries oxygen to the baby and decreases the chance of a premature delivery. Do not eat this superfood in excess as it may cause abdominal discomfort.
8. Post-Workout Food
Pumpkins, sweet potatoes and squash are some great food options after workouts. These starchy and nutrient-dense foods provide carbohydrates and, unlike fruits, replenish muscle glycogen first instead of liver glycogen. This is particularly useful when you are striving to gain weight or muscle. It is also beneficial for those undergoing athletic training.
A cup of cooked pumpkin or pumpkin smoothie will also help refuel your potassium levels to restore the balance of electrolytes in the body after a tough workout.
9. Lowers High Blood Pressure
The high potassium content in pumpkins helps control high blood pressure. Its vitamin C also reduces blood pressure. A cup of cooked canned pumpkin meets 20 percent of your daily vitamin C requirement.
Plus, the high vitamin A in this superfood promotes proper functioning of the heart, lungs and kidneys. Its rich fiber content also keeps cholesterol levels in check, thus decreasing the risk of heart disease and stroke.
10. Promotes Fertility
The B-complex vitamins present in pumpkins and pumpkin seeds support fertility. Antioxidant vitamin E, too, has been shown to improve fertility in both men and women.
It protects cell membranes from toxic compounds, improves sperm health and motility, and increases endometrial thickness in women with thin uterine linings.
Pumpkin seeds are also rich in omega-3 fatty acids that have fertility-boosting benefits. They help increase blood flow to the reproductive organs, regulate reproductive hormones and reduce stress.